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Children’s Willpower Linked to Smoking Habits Later in Life

Summary: Researchers report children with low self control at the age of 10 were more likely to take up smoking as adolescence and had higher rates of smoking during adulthood.

Source: University of Sterling.

Scientists from the University of Stirling have discovered a link between childhood self-control and smoking habits across life.

Behavioural Scientist Dr Michael Daly and his team examined 21,000 people from the UK tracked over four decades. The researchers found children with low self-control by age 10/11 were more likely to take up smoking in adolescence and had substantially higher rates of smoking as adults, even decades later aged 55.

Dr Daly explained: “We first saw that children with low self-control were twice as likely to smoke as adults compared to their more self-controlled peers. We then examined alternative explanations like differences in parental smoking, intelligence, and social class. Even after taking these factors into account, we found that low self-control, measured early in life before smoking is initiated, predicts a substantially raised risk of smoking throughout adulthood.”

Additionally, the study found that children who lacked self-control tended to go on to smoke more cigarettes, had greater difficulty quitting smoking and relapsed to smoking at higher rates when they did manage to quit.

Self-control varies widely between children. The characteristics of those with low (vs. high) self-control in this study were identified using teacher-ratings and included poor attention, lack of persistence and impulsive behaviour. The researchers called for action to support these young people to increase their life chances.

Image shows a cigarette butt.

Additionally, the study found that children who lacked self-control tended to go on to smoke more cigarettes, had greater difficulty quitting smoking and relapsed to smoking at higher rates when they did manage to quit. Neurosciencenews image is for illustrative purposes only.

Dr Daly continued: “Many efforts focus exclusively on educating children about the dangers of smoking. However, our findings suggest that a complementary approach – one which increases general self-control – could have lifelong health benefits. Prior research from our team and others has indicated that raising a child with high self-control is likely to improve school grades, employment prospects, quality of relationships and mental and physical health. We can now add not smoking to that already formidable list – along with the diverse health and other benefits that non-smokers enjoy.”

The participants were drawn from two nationally representative cohort studies; the 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS) and the 1958 National Child Development Study (NCDS), with participants reporting their smoking status at five time points (ages 26 to 42 years) in the BCS and six time points (ages 23 to 55 years) in the NCDS.

About this psychology research article

Source: Rachel MacBeath – University of Stirling
Image Source: This NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.
Original Research: Abstract for “Childhood Self-Control Predicts Smoking Throughout Life: Evidence From 21,000 Cohort Study Participants” by Daly, Michael; Egan, Mark; Quigley, Jody; Delaney, Liam; and Baumeister, Roy F. in Health Psychology. Published online September 8 2016 doi:10.1037/hea0000393

Cite This NeuroscienceNews.com Article
University of Sterling. “Children’s Willpower Linked to Smoking Habits Later in Life.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 13 September 2016.
<http://neurosciencenews.com/willpower-children-smoking-5041/>.
University of Sterling. (2016, September 13). Children’s Willpower Linked to Smoking Habits Later in Life. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved September 13, 2016 from http://neurosciencenews.com/willpower-children-smoking-5041/
University of Sterling. “Children’s Willpower Linked to Smoking Habits Later in Life.” http://neurosciencenews.com/willpower-children-smoking-5041/ (accessed September 13, 2016).

Abstract

Childhood Self-Control Predicts Smoking Throughout Life: Evidence From 21,000 Cohort Study Participantsg

Objective: Low self-control has been linked with smoking, yet it remains unclear whether childhood self-control underlies the emergence of lifetime smoking patterns. We examined the contribution of childhood self-control to early smoking initiation and smoking across adulthood.

Methods:
21,132 participants were drawn from 2 nationally representative cohort studies; the 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS) and the 1958 National Child Development Study (NCDS). Child self-control was teacher-rated at age 10 in the BCS and at ages 7 and 11 in the NCDS. Participants reported their smoking status and number of cigarettes smoked per day at 5 time-points in the BCS (ages 26–42) and 6 time-points in the NCDS (ages 23–55). Both studies controlled for socioeconomic background, cognitive ability, psychological distress, gender, and parental smoking; the NCDS also controlled for an extended set of background characteristics.

Results: Early self-control made a substantial graded contribution to (not) smoking throughout life. In adjusted regression models, a 1-SD increase in self-control predicted a 6.9 percentage point lower probability of smoking in the BCS, and this was replicated in the NCDS (5.2 point reduced risk). Adolescent smoking explained over half of the association between self-control and adult smoking. Childhood self-control was positively related to smoking cessation and negatively related to smoking initiation, relapse to smoking, and the number of cigarettes smoked in adulthood.

Conclusions:
This study provides strong evidence that low childhood self-control predicts an increased risk of smoking throughout adulthood and points to adolescent smoking as a key pathway through which this may occur.

“Childhood Self-Control Predicts Smoking Throughout Life: Evidence From 21,000 Cohort Study Participants” by Daly, Michael; Egan, Mark; Quigley, Jody; Delaney, Liam; and Baumeister, Roy F. in Health Psychology. Published online September 8 2016 doi:10.1037/hea0000393

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